Printable Version
Pronunciation: æ-ro Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A slender missile shot from a bow, the front end with a point and a back end of vanes for guidance. 2. An image of the pointed end of an arrow that indicates direction. 3. The sucker of a plant that is left to grow and replace the plant itself.

Notes: Bow and arrowsThis word is used in its original sense (No.1 above) most often in the phrase 'bow and arrow', since we seldom find one without the other. It has no derivational family, but is a component within many compounds, like arrow-smith, which became the name of a rock band, Arrowsmith. It arose in Massachusetts in the 70s and is still performing in 2016.

In Play: One of my favorite triple puns is, "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana." Time and fruit are nouns, though the latter behaves like an adjective. Flies in the first phrase is a verb; in the second it is a noun. Like is a preposition in the first and a verb in the second—thus, it is a triple pun. A person who is openly honest to the core is said to be 'straight as an arrow'.

Word History: In Old English today's Good Word was arwan from an earlier earh "arrow". By Middle English it had settled pretty much on arwe. Earh derived via the Germanic language family from Proto-Indo-European root arku- "bow", source also of Latin arcus "a bow". This sense of the word became "arrow" from "the thing belonging to the bow" by association, perhaps a superstitious avoidance of the actual name. Arcus went on to mean anything arched like a bow. English borrowed the word in this sense directly from Latin as arc, and via French as arch. (Gratitude is now due Chris Stewart, our long-time friend from South Africa, for recommending today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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